Breath to the Rescue, a 3-part strategy for finding calm in the midst of crisis
Several months ago, I wrote an article highlighting the morning meditation practice I’d established with my teenage daughter. It was a healthy way to reconnect and find calm amid uncertainty, as I shared in my post.
New here we are just a few months later, my daughter’s half of the meditation practice long abandoned, and mom feeling silly for spreading fake news. Because as we all know, these days nothing is set in stone. Now as I look back, it’s also a good reminder that in these shaky times, even the most stable boat can flip at any moment.
My latest boat flip was a doozy. It was a classic mother daughter clash ending in mom feeling guilty enough to brave the most hazardous air in the country and drive to the grocery store to stock up on daughter’s vegan staples we somehow ran out of over the weekend. Heavy sigh, followed by some time to regroup and come up with a better plan.
Fortunately, as luck would have it, this was also the weekend I began my yoga teacher training. My enrollment was a last-minute decision based more on opportunity than career goals, but I took it.
I embarked on the first of 8 weekend sessions beginning on Friday morning at 6:30 am and ending on Sunday evening at 5pm. I love yoga and have signed up for enough similarly scheduled weekend retreats to know what to expect.
But this time, instead of concentrating on yoga poses, we focused on what I came to know as the most powerful practice of all. The breath.
The schedule allocated 25 hours from Friday morning through Sunday evening for breathing practices.
Find your seat
As someone who hates sitting still for too long, in the beginning I felt some serious resistance. “Do I really want to do this” I asked myself more and more frequently as the expectation became clearer. No poses, lots of sitting and breathing. How would I make it through?
Finally, I committed to staying with it, even when it felt hard, and do what I could, no promises, no pressure. I created a space where I could sit comfortably, in private, uninterrupted by my phone (this is key!) To my surprise as the weekend progressed, I became increasingly committed. With the world on fire around me, I found a space to quiet my mind.
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Quiet your mind
A quiet mind creates space to focus our awareness on the present. Away from whatever I wish was or wasn’t happening, which I couldn’t control. Thoughts that only makes me anxious.
According to happiness expert Dr. Christine Carter. The opposite of uncertainty is not certainty; it’s presence. Instead of imagining a scary and unknown future, we can bring our attention to our breath. From there, we can check in with ourselves.
Who knew this most accessible of practices could be so transforming?
Maybe this sound woowoo to you – I could have just as easily checked out to Grey’s Anatomy reruns and made it through the smokey weekend entertained and equally unscathed. But here’s the difference.
After the training session ended, when I woke up to another day of smoke choking out sunshine, I saw the option to make a choice. I could either get discouraged and shut down, or I could, despite the sucky circumstances, show up for myself.
Breathe into calm
I chose to show up. Starting with breath work and meditation. And from there I kept going. I made a commitment to myself that I would practice every single day, even if I only have 10 minutes, even if I don’t feel like it. No matter how imperfectly, I would continue to show up.
It’s hard to quantify the benefits this practice delivers. It gives me the focus and energy to stay on my game through numerous coaching calls and meetings, manage the kids and their friends and the dog and make dinner and do all the things we need to do to stay sane right now, because I set my course for the day with 20 minutes first thing in the morning.
It’s no instant fix, you won’t see results overnight. Instead it’s an investment. Training your brain to stay calm in the midst of uncertainty, including potentially threatening circumstances is like weight training. Over time your capacity gets stronger. And a calm mind always outperforms an anxious one.
There is so much turmoil in our world right now it’s almost impossible to avoid the ups and downs. But when stress and anxiety are high, deep breathing and meditation invite you to focus on the present moment. Learning to use the breath to regulate your emotions is a coping skill you can tap into whenever you need to find clarity in the face of uncertainty, one deep breath at a time.
Are you ready to explore your options for changing your life for the better? Contact me to schedule a free 20-minute breakthrough session today!